Woman Warriors Newsletter

The Power of Mentorship with Marcel Petit

Oct 2016. Marcel was a presenter at our violence awareness and prevention conference, Rise Up Mighty Warrior. He discussed the importance of art in healing and his photovoice workshop with Women Warriors.
With the theme of this weeks newsletter being reconciliation and Indigenous healing, I’d like to discuss supporting our men on their healing journeys. When I hosted our violence awareness and prevention conference, Rise Up Mighty Warrior in October 2016, the
feedback that I received from the 90 attendees, composed of mainly Indigenous women, is they want more healing resources and conferences for their men.

This request to heal our men is echoed in many articles I read on CBC North including:
1) Abused as a child, became abusive husband: Man testifies at MMIWG Yellowknife, then supports others
‘We are healing. But without you we are nothing. Women give life,’ says James Jenka.

2) MMIWG hearings shed light on lack of mental health services in Canada’s north
Families testified about struggles with poverty, addiction, abuse, and violence.Excerpt from the article:
Advocate Lydia Bardack, that has worked in the justice field for many years in Yellowknife states, “I know we want to focus on the women, but the women are asking for help for their men.”
She says sheltering a woman from an abusive relationship is a start, but there has to be a focus on preventing the trauma in the first place. 
She frequently speaks with men in custody who have witnessed and suffered abuse as children and later became violent as adults, which is why she says programs need to focus on helping them.
“Because if we want to keep the women and children safe, we have to heal the men.”3) In this Globe and Mail article, Fred Sasakamoose: Survivor, trailblazer, leader, hero, Fred speaks about the devastating effects of residential school on his emotional well-being. He states, “It was hard to continue because my life was always away from my parents. I never received a hug or a kiss for 10 years.”

My friend and artist, Marcel Petit openly shares his healing journey with people. I met Marcel in 2016 in his role as a SaskCulture Community Engagement Animator. I invited him to Lloydminster to do a Photovoice workshop with members of Women Warriors so they could present their viewpoints on health and safety at our conference, Rise Up Mighty Warrior. You can view these photo voice presentation on the Women Warriors Youtube channel: Ashley and Chris

Marcel shared with me that his mother was a residential school survivor and placed him in foster care at a young age. During our interview last Sunday he talked about his unstable childhood. He stated, “Everyone kept leaving me. In your spirit you become disposable. That’s how I felt and I didn’t realize how much I hated myself and my mom. I didn’t want to be my family. I wanted them out of my life. I spent twenty years of my life trying to die.”

The trauma from his childhood manifested in alcoholism, anger, and self-hatred. The turning point came at the age of 31 years old, when he was stabbed 19 times in Wekwheti, NWT and knowing if he didn’t quit drinking and hiding from his past, he was signing his own suicide. 

His greatest mentor and healing ally became his mom. He stated, “She was the cause and effect of everything that was awful about me in the first place. My mom taught me that everything we need is inside of us. We just need to wake-up.”

Marcel’s healing involved participating in Sundance, sweats, weekly counseling sessions, and forgiveness. He said about his mom, “I had to learn to forgive her. I learned about her experience in residential school and all the things that happened to her including sexual abuse. She didn’t leave because she hated me. She let me go because she needed to. I had to learn how to forgive, and how to forgive myself.”

Marcel now mentors youth and talks about how every single relationship brings him healing because “most of these kids we work with are a reflection of ourselves.”

He discussed a specific youth that triggered him after disclosing that his mom had been murdered and found by a garbage dump. He stated, “I just wanted him to cry. I hate the fact that kids have to be so strong. It killed me to know this kid can’t be a kid, and I know what that feels like. I told him ‘just cry’ and don’t hold that stuff in.”

He believes that “Indigenous peoples are born with resilience. It is in us. It’s a prerequisite because of the hell we’ve been through in this country.”

His advice for healing from trauma, “First step, talk about it. Don’t hold it in. Don’t make it about you. Don’t hate your parents for what they are. Talk and deal with it. You’ll never fully be you until you figure out who you are. Go stand where your Great-grandparents have. Those ancestors overcame great odds to make sure we knew our culture. And don’t pretend to be perfect. We’re going to make mistakes when we’re changing patterns.”
The Power of Mentorship with Marcel Petit 
1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
The most important person in my life was my mother without her guidance and love I wouldn’t have found my way out of the dark 

2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
I was lucky she was always there, I just needed to open my eyes and ears

3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?
Confidence is inside you
What do you want from life

4. What qualities make a good mentee?
Share Knowledge
Guidance without judgment
Just be there

5. What have benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
‘I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve worked with over the past 20+ years. It has been such an amazing journey. The rewards has been just the honoured to work with and alongside some amazing people along their journey    

6. What personal development practices do you have?
Art (film, Photo) 

7. What book most impacted your life?
The One and Half Men (the story of Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris) and any book on Poetry.